Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ideas for Productively Using Cell Phones in Your Classroom

Taking advantage of the potential of the cell phones that students carry with them is one of the points that I emphasized yesterday in my keynote for the MECA conference in Mississippi. Here are some of my favorite ways to use cell phones in school.

Gathering informal feedback from students:
There are lots of good tools for gathering feedback from students through their phones, laptops, and tablets. Two of my favorite tools for this are Kahoot and the old standby Poll Everywhere.

Kahoot is a service for delivering online quizzes and surveys to your students. On Kahoot you create a quiz or survey that your students respond to through any device that has a web browser. Your Kahoot questions can include pictures and videos. As the teacher you can control the pace of the Kahoot quiz or survey by imposing a time limit for each question. As students answer questions they are awarded points for correct answers and the timeliness of their answers. A scoreboard is displayed on the teacher's screen. Students do not need to have a Kahoot account in order to participate in your activities. To participate they simply have to visit then enter the PIN code that you give to them to join the activity.

Poll Everywhere is a service that allows you to collect responses from an audience via text messaging. The free plan for K-12 educators provides selection of features and quantity of responses that is adequate for almost any classroom. One of the neat ways to display feedback gathered through Poll Everywhere is in word clouds. The word cloud feature integrates with WordleTagxedo, and Tagul.

Mobile Media Creation Activities:
Have your students use an app like Audioboom (available for iOS and Android) to create simple audio recordings in which they describe what they're seeing on a field trip. Or have them use the app to record and share a short message about what they learned in your classroom this week.

If your students have been taking a lot pictures on a field trip, have them organize a short audio slideshow video through the Animoto Android or iOS apps. Click here for an example that I made with the Animoto Android app. Magisto is another app (available for Android and iOS) worth trying for this purpose.

Your students can use ThingLink (iOS or web browser) or PicCollage (available for iOS and Android) to add some information to pictures that they have taken. In the case of ThingLink they can add interactive elements to their pictures. Those elements can include links, notes, video clips, MP3 recordings, and other images. In the case of PicCollage students can put together a simple collage about things they saw on a field trip, things they observed during a science lab, or highlights of a school event.

QR Codes For the Win:
Russel Tarr's QR Treasure Hunt Generator provides you with all of the things you need to get started creating your own QR codes and using them in your classroom. To use the QR Treasure Hunt Generator type out a series of questions and answers, generate the QR codes using the tool Russel Tarr provides, then print and display the codes around your classroom or school. Click here to view a sample QR Treasure Hunt.

TagMyDoc is a tool that allows you to apply a QR code to Word documents and PDFs that are stored on your computer. Upload your document then TagMyDoc creates and applies a QR code to it. You can print the document with the QR code on it or simply project the QR code for your students to scan and get a copy of the document on their mobile devices.

Expanding Conversations:
This is an activity that I stumbled upon thanks to a student in my high school Civics class in 2010. My student Billie was texting when she shouldn't have been so I asked her, "what are you doing?" She replied, "texting my mom." I then told her to ask her mom about the property tax question we were discussing in class. Billie's mom replied with her thoughts. Soon all of my other students wanted to text their parents. In less than three minutes I had comments from parents about property taxes. Their comments greatly expanded the conversation.